‘Believe’ camp returning for its 5th year

Published 4:33 am Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A unique performing arts camp for third through 12th grade students will come to the area in June and promises to make an impact on the kids and community.

A little over four years ago, Bruce Sampson had the crazy idea of bringing together a team of talented and passionate professional performance artists to create a week-long arts event for the youth in his hometown of Bogalusa. He wanted to bring back the arts, as well as encourage and inspire the community.

That idea was called the “BELIEVE” Summer Camp Experience. It was so successful and impactful in its mission in the inaugural year that, before the summer was over, the first camp spawned another camp in Slidell and an invitation for Sampson to visit and teach the concept in multiple cities in China.

In the years that followed, the camps and events have expanded to Mississippi, California and now Florida. Last year, Sampson also took a team of five to Shanghai and Nanchang, China, to produce full camps and shows at three schools. This year has seen new partnerships and expansion opportunities grow into at least six camps, including a BELIEVE International Arts Experience in California that will pair Southern California students with visiting Chinese students and faculty in a special session of cultural exchange.

Each year, the theme and material change with a specific focus, but Sampson said the general idea is always the same: “to get the kids to affect positive change in themselves and others through the arts.”

The motto/tag line for BELIEVE is “Embrace the Possible!”

“The mindset is about accepting that anything is possible if you believe and work toward that goal,” Sampson said.

This year’s theme is “Don’t Stop Believin’!” which also celebrates the camp’s fifth anniversary.

The five-day camps culminate in a musical-variety stage show for family, friends and the whole community. The show belongs to the students. In fact, aside from an introduction in the beginning and closing remarks at the end, you rarely see the directors or other adults during the hour-long production.

“It’s about the kids and giving them the space and opportunity to share what they’ve learned and how much they’ve grown as performers and individuals,” Sampson said. “So much so, that each week of camp can be very different as the performance is adapted to who the students are and the energy, talents and passions they display throughout the week. There are no talent or experience requirements. Beginners are encouraged to participate.”

The master instructors come from a variety of locations, including Los Angeles, New York City and more, and are professionals who each have years of experience performing, teaching and directing internationally. Sampson himself has been writing and producing theatrical shows as well as arts education curriculum for decades. He has also taught and directed all over the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Africa.

For much of the camp, students will be divided into three peer groups (elementary, middle school, high school) and will rotate between acting, singing, dancing and creative classes daily.

The BELIEVE camp will take place at the campus of Bogalusa High School for the five days and the culminating stage show that Friday evening.

The pre-registration fee is $85 per student for the week and includes the camp T-shirt, which will be used for the culminating performance. After June 1, the price will go up to $100 per student.

Local sponsors this year include International Paper, Magnolia Garden Inn and Suites, the city of Bogalusa, and Bogalusa Lions Club.

Sampson is hoping more local businesses, organizations and churches will step up to sponsor and donate to help provide scholarships for the less fortunate.

Prospective campers are encouraged to register online at www.believecamp.com. For more information or assistance, call 951-371-5239.